Omobola Johnson

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

The Federal Government of Nigeria has taken a bold step toward ensuring that the ICT sector contributes significantly to gross domestic product (GDP) of the nation.

The government said it has seeded N500 million as part of the USD15m Technology Venture Capital Fund required to grow the nation's local software sector through a software incubation programmes across the country.

Addressing a forum on software incubation in Lagos, the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, said the N500m would be seeded through the Nigeria Information Technology Development Fund (NITDEF), stressing that the government seed fund would attract the remaining USD12 million from investors both  locally and internationally.

She said it is part of efforts to grow the software sub-sector of the ICT industry and make it contribute substantially to to the GDP, adding that  the pilot project will be established in Lagos and Calabar, the Cross River State capital.

Johnson said the e-Learning Centre would host the software incubation centre in Lagos while Tinapa Knowledge City would house the Cross River State Innovation centre.

Rather than being government-owned, the minister said the innovation centres would be 'government-inspired' or 'government- catalysed' but would eventually be run by a non profit organisation to be set up soon.

According to her, government would initially provide the enabling environment for the proper take off of the incubation centres and later step aside and allow the centres to have lives of their own.

Specifically, the minister said the software incubation programme would initially be government-funded with the aim of attracting more investors in the long run.

Johnson said Lagos and Calabar would serve as pilots, stating that the Lagos Innovation Centre would take off before the end of the year.

"We have chosen two different locations for test pilots. We will deliver Lagos by year end or early next year. Calabar will be delivered by end of the first quarter of 2013," the minister romised.

Ms. Helen Anatogu, programme manager in charge of the implementation of the software incubation programme, in a presentation, revealed that the Federal Government planned to have established six incubation software incubation centres by the end of 2015.

Some of the potential locations for other software incubation centres, according to the presentation, include Abeokuta, Enugu, Ife and Abuja which she said were chosen based on parameters like presence of large students and availability of tertiary institutions in the areas.

The focus of the software incubation programme and centres, according to her, include enterprise software development, linguistic software, custom programming, mobile software, business intelligence and gaming.

Essentially targeted at students, start-ups and software development companies, she disclosed that the programme would offer business and technological training, access to software development tools at no cost, use of facilities and computer resources for development purposes, mentoring, assistance with marketing and promotion, as well as access to finance.

According to her the models adopted were adapted from that of Egypt, India, US and Kenya.

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